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Pregame notes: “We’re not in too bad of a position”

Tweet [1]

Joe Girardi [2]

Welcome to the middle, Game 81 of 162.

“We’re definitely in striking distance,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re in the middle of our division right now. You’d like to be better, but it’s not the case. It should be a very interesting second half. We’re not in too bad of a position.”

There’s little mystery about the season’s first half. We know all about the offensive struggles, the incredible number of injuries, the deflating setbacks and the difficulty of maintaining the Yankees early pace. This was a first-place team in late May, now it’s fighting to stay above .500 while waiting for a series of key players to come off the disabled list.

The real mystery is what happens going forward.

“I think it’s probably fair to say it’s not real clear because you don’t know exactly when the guys are coming back and actually how they’re going to feel,” Girardi said. “Two guys are clear that we’re not getting them back, but there are five guys down there (rehabbing in Tampa), but you’re not exactly sure when you’re going to get them.”

So tonight the Yankees wrap up the first half, hoping for better in the next 81 games.

“You make the assumption that (the injured players) are going to come back and be good players,” Girardi said. “I make that assumption. There’s nothing that tells me they won’t be. The one thing, as you get into July and after the break possibly, and later in July, is you don’t really want to take a week or two to get guys going. It’s one thing to do it in April, but they have to be ready and ready to go.”

Ivan Nova [3]• After pitching well last night, Ivan Nova is back in an uncertain role. The Yankees will stay on rotation for the Twins series, meaning Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and David Phelps. “Maybe slot (Nova) in somewhere else,” Girardi said.

• Pretty underwhelming rehab start by Michael Pineda, who’s velocity was once again 93-94 mph but without much command. He pitched just three innings with four hits, four runs, four walks and four strikeouts. He also hit a guy and allowed two home runs. He should have one more rehab start before the Yankees have to decide whether to add him to the big league rotation or option him to the minors. “That’s not something that we’ve really talked about,” Girardi said. “I haven’t had a chance to watch him. It’s more up to Brian (Cashman), and we’ll talk to the guys and see if there’s a way he can help us.”

• Girardi reiterated that, for the time being, there are no plans of making Pineda a reliever. He’ll continue to work as a starter unless there becomes a pressing reason to make a change.

• More simulated at-bats for Alex Rodriguez today. Girardi said he had three at-bats and got three hits. … No simulated at-bats for Derek Jeter. Girardi made it sound like it was a scheduled day off. … Eduardo Nunez played one inning in the Florida State League before his rehab game was postponed by rain. He drew a walk and scored a run in his only plate appearance.

• Pettitte’s locker was empty today. He flew ahead for tomorrow’s start in Minnesota. “He had the real good first month and then he kind of went through some starts where he felt like he didn’t have all his weapons,” Girardi said. “I think he’s had them all now again. One inning here or there is what’s cost him.”

• After last night’s blowout, Girardi actually sounded a little bit encouraged by the offense. They’re getting a right-handed starter tonight, and they actually had quite a few extra-base hits yesterday. “It makes it tougher when you’re not scoring five, six runs a night,” Girardi said. “That it does. I thought we swung the bats better last night, and hopefully it carries over tonight.”

• It was raining when I walked to the stadium today, but the tarp came off the field in time for the Yankees to take batting practice (that’s happening right now). Still a chance of rain tonight, but right now things are at least a little promising.

• The Orioles have activated second baseman Brian Roberts from the disabled list. He’s batting ninth and starting at DH tonight.

Associated Press photos